The children of Max E. Benitz Sr. have published a book about their late father, a Washington state senator and one of the pioneer fruit and wine grape growers in the Roza Irrigation District.
Senator Max E. Benitz, Sr.: ‘Mr. Energy’ chronicles the life and career of Benitz, who helped create Washington State University, Tri-Cities, and worked with the late Dr. Walter Clore to plant some of the early wine grape vineyards in Washington.
The book, published by NorTex Press of Fort Worth, Texas, was written by his daughter, Eileen M. Benitz Wagener, of The Woodlands, Texas, and Dr. Michele S. Gerber, a Richland, Washington, historian and author hired by the family. Wagener’s four siblings also contributed.
Benitz, who moved to Washington in 1934 from Wathena, Kansas, first planted crops near Prosser in 1946, growing more than 700 acres of hops, wine grapes and tree fruit over 45 years.
He served as the state Farm Bureau president and on the National Farm Bureau board of directors.
Benitz, a Republican from Prosser, Washington, represented the 8th District in the state House of Representatives from 1968-1974 and the state Senate from 1974-1990.
He co-sponsored several pieces of legislation that encouraged growth in the state’s wine industry, including the 1987 bill that created the Washington Wine Commission.
He died on Aug. 29, 1990. The library at WSU, Tri-Cities, is named in his honor.